Updated Aug. 23, 2019 at 12:55 a.m.
SEOUL — North Korea warned Friday it is “ready for dialogue or stand-off” with the United States, warning it has given Washington “enough time” to change its approach to stalled nuclear talks.
In a message in the Korean Central News Agency, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho also said it would be a “miscalculation” if Washington imposed more sanctions on Pyongyang.
“We have already given ample explanation enough to be understood by the U.S. side and we have also given it enough time out of maximum patience,” Ri said. “We are ready for both dialogue and stand-off.”
The statement warned North Korea could “remain the biggest threat to the U.S.” for a long time.
Talks not likely soon
It is the latest indication North Korea may not resume talks soon, despite hinting it would do so following the latest round of U.S.-South Korean military drills, which ended this week.
U.S. President Donald Trump says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised him in a personal letter to stop missile launches and start negotiations as soon as the joint exercises ended.
The exercises ended Tuesday. But instead of resuming talks, North Korea has complained that the drills happened at all. It has also expressed displeasure with South Korea’s recent acquisition of U.S. fighter jets.
In his statement Friday, Foreign Minister Ri criticized U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for recently saying the U.S. will keep the toughest sanctions “in all of history” on North Korea.
“He is truly impudent enough to utter such thoughtless words, which only leave us disappointed and skeptical as to whether we can solve any problem with such a guy,” Ri said of Pompeo.
Ri said “nothing decent can be expected” from Pompeo, calling him a “trouble-maker bereft of sensible cogitative power.”
“He sure seems to be more interested in realizing his future political ambition rather than the current foreign policy of the U.S.,” Ri added.
Deadline of year’s end
North Korea has given the U.S. an end of year deadline to become more flexible in the nuclear talks. Pyongyang wants Washington to provide sanctions relief and security guarantees.
The Trump administration has said it is not willing to provide sanctions relief until Kim agrees to give up his entire nuclear weapons program.
North Korea has conducted eight missile launches since early May, an outpouring of anger over what it considers the U.S. and South Korea’s hostile policies.
Trump, who wants to continue the talks, says he has “no problem” with the launches, noting they cannot reach the United States.
Critics say that approach virtually ensures Kim will continue launching short-range missiles, which can reach all of South Korea.
North Korea is prohibited from any ballistic missile activity by United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Stephen Biegun, the top U.S. envoy for North Korea, confirmed Tuesday that he had not heard from North Korean officials.
“Regarding restart of those negotiations, we are prepared to engage as soon as we hear from our counterparts in North Korea,” Biegun said on a visit to Seoul.